Ninety Degrees East
The Story of the overseas tour of Ninety Nine Squadron from February 1942 to November 1945, by Flight Lietenant S R Hodkinson, Squadron Intelligence Officer
It all began way back at Waterbeach in February 1942 when 99 Squadron was contentedly pounding the Germans and doing it well. It came discreetly at first, a mere hint of things to come, a gift from the citizens of Madras - a gift of a whole Squadron of aircraft.
Madras! It was food for thought. On March 1st the bomb trollies had ceased to trail round the perimeter track, Battle Orders were conspicuous by their absence. The squadron had ceased to operate! This gift from the East spelled movement.
By the 19th of the month, ground personnel of what was now to be known as the ’Madras Presidency Squadron’ had arrived at Liverpool in a fog of secrecy and hush hush, and later in the day strolled the decks of the S.S. ‘Empress of Russia’, ‘and looked at each other with a wild surmise.’ Two days later the troopship unobtrusively slipped her moorings and put to sea. After seven weeks of plunging through the grey Atlantic the convoy reached Durban in a blaze of tropical sunshine - a prelude to three and a half years of it.
There followed six happy weeks spent at the Imperial Forces Trans-shipment Camp at Clairwood, Natal. Local white residents were generously hospitable to all, and it was with regret that the party embarked on the S.S. ‘Isle de France’ on the eighth of May for the last leg of its journey. Heavy seas however, kept them in port for three days.
Now things were to move swiftly, the Squadron reached Bombay on the twentieth and two days later their troop train pulled out on a very weary five day journey, notable for the muddle, mistakes and a complete apathy. Their destination was Barkakana Junction from whence they were to proceed to a new airfield at Ramgarh. Neither station was expecting them, there were no rations on the train and, after enquiries, it was revealed that the posting should have been to Quetta, about a thousand miles away. So much for the first five days in India! Having arranged for the men to be temporarily accommodated at two local prisoner of war camps while other arrangements were being made, the C.O., Wing Commander Black D.F.C. fell a victim to dysentery and was compelled to go into hospital. Two days later orders were received for the Squadron to split into two detachments, one going to Solan the Simla hills, and the other Ambala, for ground training.
Meanwhile, four of the aircrews who were flying out from England had made a delayed arrival at Karachi. In view of the critical situation in North Africa these crews had been detained en route, to do important ferry work between Great Britain and the Middle East. Two more arrived a few days later and the six aircraft were flown to Pandaveswar in Bengal, their crews joining the detachments at Solan and Ambala.
Early in July the two detachments changed stations but little more than rumour made the summer eventful until the Squadron joined their aircraft at Pandaveswar in mid September. But not yet was the Unit going to settle down and pick up the threads of its internal affairs. Only one day after their first local flying had commenced orders were received to go to Digri, their Israelite existence was not to end yet. But now an October cyclone took a hand in matters and added to the general confusion by wrecking most of the billets and washing away the Digri road.
With Autumn coming on, the future must then have looked a dreary vista of moves and time waste, and yet, on the evening of the eighteenth of November eight Wellingtons took off from an advanced landing ground at Fenni, circled and set course for Meiktila in Central Burma. Within hours bombs were bursting on the enemy airfield and all aircraft returned safely to Base.
The squadron had struck its first blow in the Japanese war, and at a time when every available aircraft was needed to prevent further aggression.
By the beginning of 1943, “99” had got back into its stride. It was now a month since Flight Lieutenant McDonald had brought back from Myingyan the first night operational photograph to be taken in this theatre. Wellingtons were now to be seen over advanced positions at Akyab and the forward airfields at Heho and Meiktila, from which the enemy carried out their raids on Calcutta. Marshalling yards at Mandalay and oil installations at Lanywa were also heavily attacked.
Wing Commander Black was posted away from the Squadron in April and Squadron Leader Schraeder took over the Command. The Squadron had now completed six months operational work and was posted to Chaklala in the Punjab to train paratroops. Meanwhile, the new Wellington Mark III’s and X’s had arrived on the Squadron and, A.H.Q. not having decided whether to make the special training modifications to these new aircraft, paratroop training had to be confined to lectures, although the crews practiced formation flying. This abortive period ended in May when the squadron was posted to Jessore to continue with its operational work. It was here that the Squadron first came under the control of No.175 Wing and operated in close so-operation with No.215 Squadron and together formed a partnership which was to last for a considerable time.
Shortly after the Unit’s arrival in Bengal, Wing Commander Schraeder was killed in a car accident while driving to Calcutta to attend a Group conference and Squadron Leader Maddox A.F.C., a New Zealand Flight Commander became the new C.O.
The Unit settled down at Jessore to a long spell of hard work. June saw the beginning of daily patrols along the Arakan coast which, except for the worst of the monsoon period, were continued until the nineteenth of March 1944. During this period the patrolling aircraft covered some 151,920 miles. In the meantime Wellingtons took their bomb loads everywhere the Japanese could be found, their Headquarters at Wuntho, Mandalay, Maymyo and Bhamo, their supply dumps at Prome, Taungup and Toungoo and their lines of communication throughout Burma.
There were honours and deaths, Squadron Leader Henderson and crew were the first to use marker flares in an experimental P.F.F. raid on Sagaing in October 1943. In November the same crew dropped the first four thousand pound bomb to be used in South East Asia.
Returning from Akyab on one engine, Flying Officer Allan was forced to ditch in the Bay of Bengal, only three members of the crew escaped. It was found that the dinghy had been damaged and could only support two people. As the Navigator was suffering from a broken ankle and the Wireless Operator from severe shock, Allen stayed in the water for the larger part of thirty six hours until a searching aircraft sent out by the Squadron found them and directed an Air Sea Rescue launch to their rescue.
But some times there was no escape, five aircraft were lost by April of 1944, a hung up bomb exploded on landing in one case and in another Flight Lieutenant McDonald and crew failed to return from an operation, in the following January his Navigator, Flying Officer Townsend was reported as a prisoner of war and it was believed that the remainder of the crew had also been taken prisoner. Flying Officer Watson also returning from an operation was forced to crash land in enemy territory at Gangaw and a few days later Tokyo broadcast a statement that a crew of six had been captured in this area. Pilot Officer Hamilton in taking off swerved badly, left the runway and crashed, bomb load exploding and killing everybody, while Flying Officer Richards and crew were killed in a crash following a starboard engine failure in an air test. Others were lucky. Sergeant Hatfield ditched one November day just after noon and was picked up by four o’ clock together with his crew. Flight Sergeant Cameron, compelled to return from Mandalay on one engine, was unable to gain sufficient height to cross the Chin Hills and made a skillful flight though twisting valleys reaching Chittagong just as his petrol was running out. For this flight both he and his Navigator were awarded the D.F.M. Flight Lieutenant Bent saw his crew bale out just inside our own territory on the fifth of March but crashed with his own aircraft.
The Japanese had attained a very strong position in the spring of 1944. The whole of Burma had been occupied and their positions had been consolidated. They were now bringing up re-enforcements in preparation for their attack on India, and the Squadron carried out more and more harassing raids, increasingly supporting the Army in the Kaladan area. During this period several daylight attacks were carried out on Japanese hill positions with four thousand pound bombs. The Squadron was accompanied on many of these missions by its colleagues of No.215 Squadron.
Towards the end of February Wellingtons dropped what was then a record of twenty four tons in one raid, this was carried out by thirteen aircraft on supply dumps at Taungup, from now on, supply dumps were bombed wherever they could be found.
In May the situation along the Burma Front had become immensely more complicated by reason of the main Japanese offensive, which began almost simultaneously with the
launching of General Wingate’s expedition in the Upper Irrawady district. This offensive began on the sixteenth of March, when large enemy forces crossed the Chindwin
River and made for the vulnerable road running South from Dimapur through Kohima and Imphal to Tiddim. During their advance up the Tiddim-Imphal Road the enemy were constantly attacked and the road itself was broken in many places. By the end of the first week in May however, the Japanese were only a few miles from Imphal and on the ninth of May a determined effort was made by the Army to root out the enemy from the village of Ningthoukhong just South of the Manipur capital. Sixteen of the Squadron’s aircraft took part in this attack with devastating effect, and on the following day a further ten aircraft dropped their bombs on this tiny village. In addition to 99 Squadron and their colleagues of 215 practically all the aircraft that could be spared took part in this raid, which must have represented the heaviest attack yet carried out by bomber aircraft in this theatre. But despite the fact that the village was completely destroyed, the Japanese, concealed in foxholes were able to cover the road and to prevent or at least delay the occupation of the village by our troops, it was however, perhaps the turning point of the Imphal campaign.
From the North of Imphal our garrison at Kohima was being besieged and the enemy had not only established himself athwart the main road at various places, but had infiltrated further West and had cut the tracks leading down to Silchar. Communication had in fact been severed by the enemy and henceforth our forces there together with the garrison at Kohima and various other Units including the Wingate Expedition were now entirely dependant on air supply for their maintenance. There was still a small number of aircraft available to us at three or four emergency bases in the Imphal Valley, which were used by the fighter Squadrons required for aerial defence and for direct support of the Army. These Squadrons had to be supplied by air with all the petrol and armament necessary for their maintenance as a fighting force. In view of the urgent situation therefore, 99 was taken off operational duty and towards the end of May twenty crews were sent to Agartala for conversion to Dakotas, carrying supplies to the Wingate expedition and our troops in the Kohima sector.
Six Wellington aircraft were detained at Jessore and ferried 250 pound bombs from both Jessore and Kumbhirgram, to airfields in the Imphal Valley. These bombs were to be used by the Hurricanes in close support of the Army. All ground and aircrew had been pressed into active service, either in loading aircraft or in flying, both the Armourers and the maintenance staff did a magnificent job during this period. Armourers flew on nearly all of these sorties loading and off-loading bombs continuously. In spite of monsoon weather conditions eighty of these sorties were carried out during which 2,500 bombs were delivered and 70,560 miles were flown for the loss of one aircraft, shot down by the enemy near Imphal, but not before it had itself destroyed one Oscar. This aircraft was captained by Squadron Leader Ennis DSO, DFC at the time Acting C.O.
By July the tide had turned and the Japanese were being slowly pushed back towards the Chindwin River, hampered continuously by as many aircraft that could be sent to their concentration points at Kalewa, Kalemyo and Indainggyi. The railheads at Shwebo, Wuntho and Ye-U servicing the Japanese 33, 31 and 15 Divisions also came in for constant pounding, and all roads leading from these points to the retreating enemy were patrolled. It was no easy retreat for the Yellow Conquerors of Yesterday and by August they were well across the Chindwin. On the fifteenth of this month eight aircraft went to store and supply dumps at Pinlebu between the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy and made such a thorough job of it that the A.O.C. arrived by air to congratulate the crews personally. It was the Squadron’s last Wellington raid.
The Unit moved to Dhubalia in September 1944. It had converted to Liberator aircraft and had a new C.O., Wing Commander Ercolani D.S.O., who became affectionately known as the ”Erk”. The “Erk” had done a previous operational tour with the Squadron in 1942 as a Flight Commander. New crews had arrived from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain via Kolar, and the ground crew had converted at No.352 M.U., Allahabad.
Two air sea rescue searches were carried out in October; otherwise it was a month of intensive training on the new aircraft - flying over 800 hours. The Squadron was changing its strategic role, the past two years it had been a night bomber Squadron but now it was to be employed on daylight formation work.
The main supply routes to the Japanese armies in Burma was the Burma-Siam Railway, 247 miles of metre gauge railway line, cut through almost impenetrable jungle from Thanbuzayat, South of Moulmein to Ban Pong where it linked up with the main Bangkok-Singapore line. This line was built by the Japanese in nine months using prisoner of war labour. A vast majority of the stores and re-enforcements were being brought into Burma along this railway and the role allotted to the newly formed Strategic Air Force, which now consisted of five RA.F. heavy bomber Squadrons and two American bombardment groups, was the destruction of this vital line of communication. It was not until the end of November that the “Erk” led a formation of twelve aircraft to Pynmina and a couple of days later, Squadron Leader Webster D.F.C. and Bar led a similar force on the railway yards at Mandalay. Fighting was now receding South in Burma and farther away from air bases in Bengal and in December a sixteen hour “Guinness” Exercise (No! not that type of Guinness) promised longer raids ahead. Two crews baled out through lack of fuel and another aircraft crash landed at Poona.
Before the end of the year raids started in earnest on the Burma-Siam Railway, on rolling stock, sidings and supply dumps. On one of these raids two aircraft collided and crashed, both crews believed to have been killed. To even the score, Pilot Officer Haycock’s gunner shot down an Oscar which was confirmed. On the 1st January we lost yet another aircraft captained by Flight Lieutenant White, being shot down while attacking shipping just off the Tenasserin coast. Three members of the crew were taken prisoner but were to be released following the fall of Rangoon in May. Warrant Officer McCredie, Australian pilot, also taking part in this attack was subsequently awarded the D.F.C.
Early in the New Year our forces were attempting to cross the Irrawaddy North of Mandalay in their drive toward the city and bombing was switched to targets in and around this area in close support of the 14th Army. Supply dumps and artillery positions, Japanese Headquarters at Myinmyu, Amarapura, Madaya and also to the General Headquarters in Mandalay itself. In addition to the fighting in Central Burma the Squadron took part in a successful combined operation on Ramree Island which was designed to assist our forces who were moving down the Arakan coast, unfortunately two aircraft collided on the way to the target with the loss of all members of both crews, the remainder obliterated heavy gun positions and enabled the sea forces to secure and establish a valuable beach-head. This combined operation resulted in the capture of Kyaukpyu and gave us an advanced landing ground and a good harbour for further operations. It was in January 1945 that the Squadron took part in the longest formation raid of the war to attack rail targets at Jumb Horn, an important marshalling yard on the Bangkok-Singapore railway line, involving a round trip of more than 2,400 miles.
During the first two months of this year larger bomb loads were carried and more aircraft flew more sorties. In February alone, a million and a quarter pounds of bombs were dropped in support of the 14th Army. In one week eight aircraft operated every day and for a further week twelve aircraft flew every other day in order to help the army maintain their bridgehead across the Irrawaddy and clear the way for their subsequent capture of Mandalay.
By March, the Burma-Siam Railway was cut in many places and it was with great difficulty that the enemy were able to supply their retreating troops. But now a series of raids were carried out on other lines of communication. The Bangkok-Singapore line, the small line running across the Isthmus of Kra, railway yards at Rangoon, Bangkok and Korat, trans-shipment and ferry points at Martaban and Moulmein. Opposition from these targets was at times considerable but enormous damage was caused. Na-Nien, on the Isthmus of Kra, was successfully attacked when an ammunition train in the sidings was destroyed.
This carried on until April when Wing Commander Ercolani with several crews from the Unit went to 159 Squadron to form a Pathfinder Force. Wing Commander Webster then became the new C.0. Just after the “Erk” left a second cyclone hit the Squadron. Sparks blown along in the high wind set fire to the thatch of one of the bashas and spread so rapidly, that with the exception of a few huts the Officers’ quarters were burned to the ground with much loss to all concerned. During this month there was much bad weather and operations had to be curtailed, nevertheless several attacks were carried out, chiefly against dumps in Rangoon.
After the fall of Mandalay the advance had been very rapid, the 14th Army had swept down the main road and railway to Pegu almost without opposition and by the beginning of May the stage was set for the final assault on Rangoon. The main attack began on the 1st May with large scale operations in close co-operation with landing forces. Indian paratroops were dropped and our aircraft went in to bomb enemy gun positions at Elephant Point, at the mouth of the Rangoon River. The next day Liberators of the Strategic Air Force ran up the river to bomb gun emplacements at Thilawa where crews could see landing barges waiting to move into Rangoon proper. In these operations every possible type of aircraft was employed Liberators, Dakotas, Mosquitos, Thunderbolts, Mitchells and the odd Sunderland. It was at this time that an urgent request for medical supplies came from Rangoon Jail which was being used to house Allied prisoners of war, so Flight Lieutenant Townsend flew from Jessore. Just after leaving the coast on the way to the dropping zone, this aircraft developed engine trouble and one engine had to be feathered, nevertheless realizing the urgency of his mission, this officer pressed on and successfully dropped his supplies. Flight Lieutenant Townsend also obtained the now famous “Extract Digit” photographs of the messages which had been painted on the jail roof by the prisoners of war.
But now, although many did not realise it the war was drawing to a quiet close. With the capture of Rangoon the Japanese troops in South Burma were cut in half, and May and June saw further bombing of the enemy, who were now frantically endeavoring to reorganise their scattered forces in the area around Moulmein. Both the Headquarters at Moulmein and villages along the road from Papun to Bilin, one of the few now available to the retreating enemy, were systematically attacked. Fragmentation bombs, new and deadlier in effect, were brought into use, and killed over a thousand Japanese sheltering under trees near the little village of Kamamaung.
Then came the attempt of seven aircraft to destroy a 10,000 ton oil tanker off Koh Samoi Island in the Gulf of Siam. They took off in the worst of Monsoon weather and only three reached the target. Flight Lieutenant Ludbey and Flying Officer Parkinson flying together in ‘M’ made two runs without success in face of heavy and accurate flak from the escorting destroyer and returned to base with severe damage. Flying Officer Wheeler in ‘F’ attacked at mast level and was repeatedly hit by flak. His bombs would not release but nose and tail gunners scored strikes on the target. Damaged, they limped to Akyab where the Flight Engineer was killed in crash landing. Pilot Officer Parkin took ‘J’ to the target. On the bombing run the aircraft was repeatedly hit, the starboard tail fin was shot away and the bombs were blown off the racks and considerable damage was done. The Navigator and Air Bomber baled out in the target area. The Navigator unfortunately lost his life, but the Air Bomber was taken prisoner and was released a few months later. Meanwhile the aircraft was flown back to Mingladon, but crashed on landing killing the pilot. This was one of the most disastrous operations to be undertaken by the Squadron.
Only a few days later the Squadron carried out its last raid from Dhubalia, attacking the village of Kaywe on the East Bank of the Lower Sittang, where the Japanese were believed to be preparing for a counter attack across the river.
From now on packing cases appeared all over the camp, every ‘gharry’ carried on its windscreen esoteric symbols “AJ/BERNARD” and maps of the Far East were regarded with a new and special interest. Movement was again becoming imminent and rumour whispered that it was no small one. So it was, that towards the end of July the Squadron embarked at Calcutta and sailed South in the H . M. T. ‘Dilwara’ to Ceylon and from there to the Cocos Islands.
The aircrews flew their aircraft direct to Ceylon, staying overnight at Kankesanturai and arrived on the Cocos Islands on the 17th July. The sea party arrived on the 29th July, having stopped at Colombo en route.
ithin three days of the arrival of the sea party, and before the Squadron had settled down, important shipping had been reported in the harbour at Tjilatjap, Java and three aircraft were hurriedly bombed up. On the lst August these aircraft set course for Java on what was to be the first and only strike made by the Squadron in the South West Pacific theatre. Gunners raked the shipping with machine gun fire and bombs were seen to straddle the larger ship, but no serious damage was done as most of the bombs failed to explode - much to the disappointment of the crews taking part.
Once again the Squadron settled down to a life in tents. This time however, in more pleasant conditions. No mosquitoes and a pleasant climate. On this little island, five miles long by half a mile wide swimming was possible every day, everyone was pleased with the change and looking forward to the new and last phase of the war.
With Burma practically under control, everything was now ready for the invasion of Malaya and the recapture of Singapore. The Squadron was looking forward to taking a big part in these operations.
On the 7th August a concentration of enemy aircraft was reported on an airfield at Benkoellen, in Sumatra, and was attacked with considerable success by four aircraft. Enemy fighters attempted to intercept the attacking aircraft and the gunners of ‘D’ are believed to have destroyed a ‘Tony’ which came too near.
Meanwhile, four other aircraft carried supplies for our forces in Malaya the first of this type of work to be carried out by Liberators of the Squadron.
Guerilla and resistance forces in Malaya were being organised and equipped to play an important part in preparing the way for the landing of our sea borne forces, planned for the 9th September, and, the main work of the Squadron for the next few weeks, was the dropping of urgent arms and supplies to these forces.
Dropping zones were often in the most inaccessible places, in deep valleys surrounded by high mountains, or a small clearing in miles of dense jungle. The work was exacting and called for great skill, supplies had to be dropped from 300 feet on to an area of perhaps 100 yards by 200 yards, and bad weather often made these missions extremely hazardous. Although untrained in this special work, crews persevered with these new duties and very soon earned the gratitude of the ground forces, and many signals were received congratulating them on their excellent dropping.
On the 14th August the war drew to its conclusion. The Japanese everywhere had surrendered and on the 20th of the month three aircraft led by Squadron Leader Alcorn flew in formation to carry out a reconnaissance of the Bintan Islands just South of Singapore.
In spite of the official termination of hostilities however spasmodic fighting still continued in Southern Malaya and our Guerilla Forces still required supplying by air.
On the 22nd August the Squadron was requested to drop supplies by night to forces just North of Singapore. Two sorties were carried out by Flight Lieutenant Carr and Flight Lieutenant Nicol. The dropping zone was difficult to find and the only guide was an Aldis lamp flashing the letter ’K’ nevertheless both missions were successfully carried out.
Towards the end of the month the Unit was dropping literally tons of leaflets, giving instructions and words of good cheer to our Prisoners of War. Leaflets were also dropped to Japanese troops and to civilian internees. Many thousands of miles were flown covering the length and breadth of Sumatra and Malaya, from lonely hill posts to the cities of Palembang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
September saw the beginning of an intensive period of supply dropping to both Prisoners of War and civilian internees and the Guerilla Forces. During this time, well over a quarter of a million miles were flown and medical supplies and food were dropped to Prisoner of War camps throughout Malaya and Sumatra. Members of the Squadron contributed to their own parcels, cigarettes, chocolate and toilet requisites poured in and were dropped along with other supplies. Altogether ground crew and air crews contributed 1,500 pounds of additional comforts and many letters were received by the Unit from the camps.
It was on one of these supply dropping missions that Flying Officer Steele crashed near the Prisoner of War Camp at Palembang on the 1st September with the loss of all his crew. Prisoners in the camp were greatly shocked by the tragedy and together they arranged for a military funeral, which was attended by representatives of all the Services and also by the local Japanese Generals. Letters of condolence were sent to the Squadron by several of the prisoners.
On the 24th one aircraft was sent to Batavia to take supplies for the relief of internees and much valuable information with regard to the internal conditions in Java was brought back.
During this period crews had seen the prison camps at Pakanbaroe, Loeboeklinggau, Rantauparapat, Palembang and many others where conditions were indescribable and thousands of internees were crowded together in the huts. Crews got a great kick out of the reception they received from these prisoners, many of whom had been interned for more than three years. They rushed madly out waving anything that they could get hold of, although some of them were so weak that this extra exertion killed them. The Squadron was more than repaid by the welcome they gave and the sympathy that they expressed in their several letters.
For their work in helping the prisoners of War the Unit received a letter of congratulation from the Allied Commander in Chief.
Little now remained to do except to ferry the remaining supplies from Cocos Islands to Singapore for distribution. It was on one of these occasions that our aircraft ‘K’ captained by Flying Officer Drew was reported as missing and other aircraft carried out Air Sea Rescue searches covering 15,625 miles, but nothing was seen.
With the exception of an S.D. sortie to Trengannu in Eastern Malaya carried out by Flight Lieutenant Davey D.F.C. the longest trip ever carried out by the Squadron, and involving a round trip of three thousand miles, nothing of importance happened until the 18th October.
The 18th October was a big day in the History of the Unit, a letter had been received from the AAC in C. announcing that the Squadron was to be disbanded. Wing Commander Webster called the Squadron together and passed on the information he had received. The news did not meet with the enthusiasm that might have been expected, everyone was sorry that Ninety Nine was to go.
It was brought out to India at a difficult time and has taken its part throughout the defeats and victories of the Japanese campaign, like a human being it has had its failures and its successes. It has been greatly appreciative of the care and help given to it by No.175 Wing who have watched its interests almost throughout its overseas tour and also the friendly spirit of competition and comradeship shown by its colleagues of No.215 and 356 Squadrons with whom it has worked.
Since the 20th May 1942 its aircraft have flown on operations, a distance of almost equal to 120 times round the Earth. On Wellingtons 1,119,730 miles were flown and 3,655,994 pounds of bombs were dropped on enemy targets. In ten months following its conversion to Liberator aircraft a further 1,281,834 miles were flown and 5,409,000 pounds of bombs were dropped on targets deep in Burma, Siam, Java and Sumatra. In addition, a further 20,495 miles were flown during which six tons of leaflets were dropped, mainly to Prisoner Of War Camps, after the cessation of hostilities. A total of 330,556 pounds of arms, food and medical supplies were dropped to guerilla forces in Malaya, Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees in Sumatra, Malaya and Java, altogether nearly a quarter of a million of miles were flown on this work. 86,891 miles were flown on Air Sea Rescue work from bases in India and Cocos Islands, Reconnaissance Patrols and Ferrying accounted for a further 222,480 miles. The total number of operational sorties carried out by the Unit in this theatre is 2,339.
As always, the ground crew played a great part in the maintenance of the Squadron prestige, and often its serviceability was at times the highest in the Group. It is very largely due to their untiring keenness and zeal that these phenomenal figures have been possible. Armourers and maintenance staff have spent long hours getting their aircraft ready for take off and waiting for them to return, and to them must go a large portion of the credit of the Unit’s achievements. The Squadron is justly proud of them.
Squadron personnel both aircrew and ground crew have been gathered together from all parts of the world. Decorations have been awarded to representatives from Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain. Aircrew, Armourers, fitters and Engineers have all been honoured among the 22 Decorations awarded to the Unit.
If, on the 15th November, Ninety Nine passes into oblivion, it can justly claim, at least, to have done its duty.